Monday, October 25, 2010

Banking for Kids – B is for Bank Charges, O is for Overdraft

Bank accounts for children are a great idea. They can keep their pocket money safe, save their birthday money and learn how to use a debit card and ATM. If they don’t spend their money it just builds up until they have enough to buy that huge Lego kit or a computer game they are desperate for. Unless your children bank at FNB that is.

We opened bank accounts for our children two years ago, so that they could learn about banking and taking care of their money. We were happy to find that FNB provided a Future account, designed for children, with a debit card, three free transactions a month and no monthly fees. Money could be paid in and withdrawn at the ATM. The kids duly memorised their PINs and paid in their pocket money. Occasionally they used their cards to purchase a toy or a Christmas present, but mostly they were saving their money.

Until last week, when our 12 year old son tried to purchase a book at Bargain Books. He learned first hand how embarrassing it is to have your card declined,not once but three times, despite being sure that you had enough money for the purchase. Luckily his aunt was on hand to bail him out.

Back home I logged on to their internet banking and found that he had much less money than he thought. His savings had been whittled away over a period of time by R5 monthly fees. First thing on Monday morning I rang the bank sure that there was a mistake. No, I was informed, the accounts had been changed to include monthly fees the previous year and there were now no free accounts available.

On asking why I had not been informed of these changes, I was told that the onus is on the customer to check their accounts every month. For children’s accounts?

How can a bank like FNB that presents itself as a family bank offer a children’s account and then change it to start charging fees without informing the account holders by letter?

My son has now lost over R100, most of the money that he had left in his account from his birthday, in monthly fees and declined transaction fees.

Our children have learned a lesson in banking that their parents had not intended. Bank fees can run you into overdraft and you are better off keeping your money in your piggy bank.

Needless to say I am outraged, furious, frustrated and all the rest. We are taking this further with the bank, but in the meantime I am spreading the word any way I can. Front page of the papers would be good.


  1. That is terrible. My son has a Standard bank card - no fees, no hassle for us to remember to pay pocket money - we just transfer straight into his account. It also as a save function, where they can transfer money from the everyday account into an interest account.

  2. How awful for you and for him. I can understand how angry you must be.

  3. This makes me irate too! Banks, and the people that run them, seem to have such problems with greed these days! They'll do all they can to accumulate for themselves, even at the expense of children!
    I really hope you are able to reach a satisfactory outcome--I think they ought to refund, apologize, and give him free checking for life :) Ok I'm dreaming. But the first two could happen. Conceivably.

  4. Your children have indeed learned a valuable lesson. When you let someone else control your money, they will invariably take it from you.

    Long live the piggy-bank.

    P.S. I would write letters to the local newspapers, call your local government, write letters to the president of the bank, and have all my friends and relatives carry signs out front of the bank: "THIS BANK STEALS MONEY FROM CHILDREN". That is a huge load of crap, what they've done. They should be responsible for notifying the parent/guardian of any changes to a child's account policy. Buggers.

  5. Thanks for the solidarity all of you! We are waiting to hear whether they will refund the money, so far it's been sent up to a higher level twice. Will know on Monday if we need to roll out the heavy artillery or not. I'll issue you all with placards if we decide to march outside the bank!


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!